UPDATE: As a reader pointed out, the Wall Street Journal says "people familiar with the matter" claim the lawsuit's being filed tomorrow.
The Department of Justice sent letters notifying Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery and Sheriff Joe Arpaio's lawyers that the DoJ's suing the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office "in order to remedy the serious Constitutional and federal law violations" the department found in its investigation.
In the letters, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez keeps it brief, saying the DoJ intends to file the civil lawsuit since the department can't seem to get the MCSO's cooperation through "voluntary means."
Perez notes that it's been 100 days since the findings of the investigation were released, and the DoJ hasn't met with MCSO's lawyers since early February.
The Justice Department had drawn up a draft agreement for the Sheriff's Office, saying it was willing to negotiate, but that didn't happen, as Arpaio complained that he wouldn't "surrender" his office to a federal monitor.
A previous letter from DOJ deputy assistant Attorney General Roy Austin pointed out that the monitor's duties weren't even set, as that was supposed to be part of the whole negotiations process Arpaio and company refused.
Montgomery had previously demanded that the DoJ turn over evidence of its claims of racial profiling by the Sheriff's Office, although Austin wrote that he and his colleagues have "repeatedly explained" to Montgomery that they're not turning over information unless it's in federal court.
Now that the DoJ lawsuit has turned the lawsuit from a threat into an intent, Arpaio's released his apparent response -- a booklet telling MCSO employees not to be racist, and claiming that they're really cleaning up their act over there.
The booklet includes a forward from Arpaio, which we'll reprint part of below:
Recently [...] it seems that my high-profile nature and that of my Office, along with my willingness to take on difficult and at times controversial issues, have led some people to feel dismayed, even alienated, particularly as it relates to our Hispanic community.
These concerns are fueled by an unfortunate use of language that compounds rather than describes the problem. Terms like "culture of cruelty" and "racist" are tossed about in headlines and sound bites, while information to support these claims is not offered or communicated through the mainstream media.
I do not tolerate racist attitudes or behaviors. We at the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office do not foster a "culture of cruelty." But because perception can be more powerful than fact, I want to address these concerns openly and focus on community-based goals and procedures which affirm our commitment to the highest professional standards.
The rest of the booklet is a code of conduct of sorts for MCSO employees, touting "bias-free law enforcement," "an unwavering commitment to the protection of Constitutional rights for all," and the "need to reinforce public trust" with that bias-free enforcement.
Another excerpt from the booklet, which sounds like an indirect response to the DoJ's findings:
To ensure bias-free law enforcement and detention services, our Office will:
- Enforce policies and procedures that ensure equal law enforcement protection and detention services
- Develop and implement policies specific to bias-free law enforcement and detention services
- Enhance and mandate training focused on bias-free practices
- Improve upon the areas of community outreach and interpersonal communication.
- Monitor enforcement actions and jail practices for adherence to constitutional requirements
- Improve the methods used to capture statistics relating to traffic stops, searches and arrests
- Expand public access to pertinent, accurate information relating to the above
There's also a response to the bungled sex crimes in the new booklet, as the Sheriff's Office acknowledges the cases "were not completed to industry standards."
The booklet claims the MCSO is dealing with it, adding new detectives to the sex-crimes unit, and ordering an internal audit by a panel of supervisors, including advisers from the County Attorney's Office.
A later section goes on to describe complaints from the community, and says it'll update employees about preventing retaliation "claims," among other things.
In short, it's a booklet on what the Sheriff's Office ought to be, and it's a couple decades late for Arpaio.
And if this is actually an attempt to counter the DoJ's intentions of a lawsuit, well, good luck.
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Read the letter below: